Blame Jeff Buckley. Blame Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” Someone needs to serve as the scapegoat for the current renaissance of early-’70s AM gooeyness. As the musical recycle bins empty out, all that’s left is the stuff so icky that it was discarded almost immediately in the first place. Yet a number of music fans must still have a sweet spot for such sounds, judging by the rave reviews sugarcoated softie Ron Sexsmith always inspires.
Most of Sexsmith’s songs combine valentine sentiments with saccharin arrangements, all presented in a childlike voice that becomes hopelessly cloying the instant it stops being charming. In “The Least I Can Do,” for instance, Sexsmith writes like a love-smitten seventh-grader doting on the back of his notebook: With all the love you’ve given me/So perfect and true/To call your heart infinity/Is the least that I can do. Even the best thing here, “Dragonfly on Bay Street,” cribs from Chris Rea’s “Fool (If You Think It’s Over),” which marks the southernmost boundary for kinda-cool syrupy songs. There might be a mood, a place, a sentimental moment during which Cobblestone Runway seems right. Be warned, however — this CD leaves the kind of melodic stains that never, ever come out.